Hello and welcome to my Parliamentary report for March, which highlights some of my activities as your MP for Gordon through the last month.
Clearly, the appalling situation in Ukraine is uppermost in our minds at present. My thoughts go to all of those impacted by President Putin's illegal and unwarranted acts of aggression against Ukraine and her people. I have joined with my SNP colleagues in calling for a proper humanitarian response plan to be put in place and for the scope of sanctions against the Russian State and key figures to be expanded.
My team and I have also been continuing to assist constituents with a wide range of issues. If we can help you in any way, please call 020 3545 2236 or email [email protected] to get in touch.
24th February: Question to the Minister of State for Brexit 'Opportunities'
"The Government have touted their so-called 'Brexit Freedoms Bill' as a means of cutting up to £1 billion-worth of red tape, yet Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs estimates that new customs rules resulting from Brexit could lead to increased costs for businesses of up to £15 billion each year.
"Is it not the case that the only cuts to red tape that have been made since Brexit have been the repeated cutting of red tape lengthways, to create many more miles of the stuff than ever existed when we were part of the EU?" – Richard Thomson MP
In my role as SNP Westminster Spokesperson for Welsh Affairs, I highlighted the benefits devolving the Crown Estate has had in Scotland and that devolving this to Wales could benefit the people of Wales in the same way as it will people in Scotland.
"The Crown Estate portfolio in Wales, with its marine assets, has risen in value from £49 million in 2020 to its current value of £603 million. The evidence from Scotland is that it is hugely beneficial for the devolved Government to be handling that and maximising the supply chain opportunities. Why is the Minister not open to the idea of devolving it, or is the message to the people of Wales that when it comes to governance in Wales, Westminster still knows best?" – Richard Thomson MP
2nd February: Sky News Interview
I appeared on Sky News ahead of Prime Ministers' Questions on 2nd February. I took my time on air to talk about how North East Scotland is being short-changed by the UK's post-Brexit power and cash grab, and why a desire for honesty and integrity in our Prime Minister means he won't be shaking off his problems over his rule-breaking 'lockdown' parties in Downing Street during the pandemic.
Russian State Aggression and Ukraine Crisis
Together with SNP colleagues and many others across all parties, I have urged the UK Government to enact a humanitarian response plan which includes safe routes for people seeking sanctuary from the conflict in Ukraine.
My team and I have been working to assist those with links to the Gordon constituency with visa applications to ensure that they and their families can travel here legally. We will continue to assist them and any others affected by the conflict however we can.
I am clear that the UK Government should be imposing the strongest possible sanctions on the Russian Government and those figures associated with it, in order to bring the conflict to an end as quickly as possible.
Read the experience of a family with links to Gordon: https://www.edinburghlive.co.uk/news/edinburgh-news/edinburgh-dad-ukraine-says-missing-23208754
Ukraine Military Situation
I asked the Minister for the Armed Forces if the UK Government have plans to impose sanctions similar to those by the European Union on the Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, and a number of other Russian military officials.
Cost of Living Crisis and Energy Prices
I receive daily concerns from constituents over the current increase in energy prices. I wrote recently to the Minister of State for Energy, Greg Hands, to ask what further measures would be taken to support people struggling with these cost increases.
The UK Government is receiving a massive tax windfall from higher energy prices. It should use that to cut energy bills, cut VAT, restore the universal credit uplift, and to copy the Scottish Government’s £20 child payment, which makes a real difference for vulnerable families.
To shield us from price rises like this in future, we must decarbonise heating and industry, improve the quality of housing and energy efficiency to reduce energy consumption therefore bills.
Read about support in Aberdeenshire: https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/michael-matheson-not-opposed-to-oil-and-gas-windfall-tax-3556998
Read my column on this topic: https://www.richardthomsonmp.com/2022/02/column-for-february-3
Read my call for emergency support in the UK Budget: https://www.richardthomsonmp.com/2022/02/thomson-backs-calls-for-emergency-uk-budget-to-tackle-cost-of-living--westminster-undermining-scotlands-progress-on-tackling-poverty
"[The cost of living crisis] is exacerbated by a supply chain crisis due to coronavirus and from the twin shotgun holes that the UK Government have blasted in each of their feet through the Brexit that they have stumbled towards." – Richard Thomson MP
Early Day Motion: To mark Inverurie Junior Agricultural Club's 90th anniversary
EDM (Early Day Motion)986: tabled on 21 February 2022
"That this House notes Inverurie Junior Agricultural Club will mark the 90th anniversary of its formation this year; recognises the prominent part the club has played in the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs; understands that hundreds of people involved in farming have been part of the club over its nine decades of existence; further recognises that Junior Agricultural Clubs and Young Farmers Clubs provide a valuable social network full of opportunities to meet new people, share new experiences and develop personal skills; commends those involved in Inverurie Junior Agricultural Club for helping it reach this significant milestone; and wishes the club and its members continued success in the years ahead."
Living with Covid-19
Volume 709: debated on Monday 21 February 2022
On 21st February, the UK Government announced its plan for "Living with Covid-19" which ended both any remaining restrictions and UK Government funding for free lateral flow testing. I took the opportunity to ask the PM if he had taken scientific advice, or whether it was a purely political decision:
"I am sure that the Prime Minister has consulted the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser for England, but consulting them is not quite the same as taking their advice. Can he confirm that he has taken their advice on the issue of ending mandatory self-isolation periods and ending testing?"
EDMs I signed this month
Read more of my contributions here: https://members.parliament.uk/member/4796/contact
Across the Constituency
Red Diesel Victory – UK Gov Backtrack
The UK Government has, under pressure, backtrack on its planned ban on the use of red diesel for ploughing matches. It's a victory for common sense - which is not very common!
My team and I have been dealing with a high volume of case work arising from delays at DVLA over processing applications for new or renewed driving licences.
Everyone understands the pressure public and private services have been under during the pandemic but almost two years on, there must be action to tackle this backlog.
I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport calling on the UK Government to urgently get a firm hold of this situation.
Farming Concerns – Australian Trade Deal
The UK Government’s trade deal with Australia has been criticised by farming bodies and animal welfare groups due to the lower standards of animal welfare legislation in Australia compared to Scotland.
NFU Scotland recently gave evidence to a House of Lords Committee, describing the safeguards of the deal as “very short-term” and not in line with those promised to the sector prior to the agreement. The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming have also made strongly-worded attacks on the deal. This deal is a bad deal for farmers and consumers, and risks jeopardising Scotland's future as a producer of high quality food and drink.
Ashvale Inverurie Visit
It was good to meet with Stuart Devine of The Ashvale chipper in Inverurie. We discussed the effect the cost of living crisis is having on hospitality businesses. Maintaining a reduced rate of VAT is just part of what the UK Government could and should be doing to help the sector trade its way back to health.
Storm Impact Update
Phone Network Resilience
Gillian Martin MSP and I have called for reassurances that mobile and fibre-optic networks will be made robust enough to function in adverse weather. We have written to mobile networks, the UK Government and Openreach following recent storms which caused widespread and prolonged power cuts, which in turn disrupted mobile and broadband.
Ofgem Interim Report
I welcome the publication of Ofgem's interim report on the response to Storm Arwen and was happy to note that it recognised the main issues of better communication and effective resilience.
Community Resilience Fund
I hosted a meeting with SSE's Director of Corporate Affairs to discuss my concerns about the power outages. Those discussions continue, but meantime SSEN has opened a community fund to enhance the resilience of local communities.
Post Office News
Inverurie Post Office
After the unfortunate closure of Inverurie Post Office, a new Post Office counter has now opened in the McLeish shop in Market Place. I am delighted that a central site has been found for this vital community service and hope that it will go from strength to strength.
Post Office Usage
The Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster heard from Post Office management that use of Post Offices for cash transactions has soared in Scotland over the past two years, demonstrating the lifeline role that Post Offices play in local communities. Director of Banking at the Post Office, Martin Kearsley, told the committee that cash withdrawals and deposits have increased by 11% year-on-year in Scotland over the past two years.
In the News…
Gordon MP urges UK Transport Minister to give greater publicity to changes to the Highway Code– Grampian Online 3/2/22 – https://www.grampianonline.co.uk/news/gordon-mp-urges-clarity-on-changes-to-the-highway-code-264910/
Plane battling strong winds nearly topples over at Heathrow– CTV News 2/2/22 – https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/plane-battling-strong-winds-nearly-topples-over-at-heathrow-1.5764179
Inverurie Business Improvement District renewal decision is welcomed– Grampian Online 28/2/22 - https://www.grampianonline.co.uk/news/inverurie-business-improvement-district-renewal-decision-is-267384/
Richard Thomson MP
Email – [email protected]
Website – www.richardthomsonmp.com
Call – 020 3545 2236
Address - Unit F6 Enterprise Centre, Aberdeen Energy Park, Exploration Drive, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, AB23 8GX